ABB deploys process control automation solution for Anglo American's mineral labs

8th September 2020 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

Industrial digital technologies, energy and automation multinational ABB has deployed an advanced process control platform for Anglo American Technical Solutions, in Johannesburg, enabling it to do continuous laboratory testwork without supervision, ABB said in a September 7 statement.

Anglo American Technical Solutions is a technical and analytical support centre for the global mining company.

The facility is part of Anglo American’s technical and sustainability function and provides technical expertise and analytical support across the minerals processing and hydrometallurgy disciplines in the form of process development and testing or evaluation.

The ABB Ability System 800xA, which is a distributed control system platform and ABB's flagship automation platform, was installed and integrated with existing laboratory infrastructure in the Extractive Metallurgy department at the Anglo American Technical Solutions facility.

The system can implement advanced process control methods. For metallurgists, the system is intuitive for their process development and testing work and flexible to allow changes to the control interface between experimental set-ups, which often require quick and easy changeover due to the dynamic and ever-changing smaller scale testwork.

ABB’s technology input will eventually allow for laboratory expansion, greater modification of experimental set-ups and more accurate control functionality. The control system also allows for expansion and application in mini pilot plants for hydrometallurgical testwork.

Crucially, the control system will allow experiments to run for extended times without constant supervision. The immediate application of the technology will be in hydrometallurgical leach experiments, which have the potential to be scaled-up and implemented on site. Advanced process control methods will allow for continued optimisation and fine-tuning of the control methodology based on the specific and unique chemical, metallurgical and mineralogical complexity for each of the experiments.

“The transition from the current system with limited capability to the ABB Ability System 800xA is an exciting step change for our work at Technical Solutions,” said Anglo American Technical Solutions Extractive Metallurgy department metallurgist Nico Groenewald.

“It is a great example of where process control and our innovation-led approach to sustainable mining comes together to improve current processes and develop new ones, to improve people’s lives in a safe, sustainable and responsible manner.”

“The installation of ABB Ability System 800xA ensures that Anglo American Technical Solutions now has the most modern, feature-rich system available on the market. It will enhance and complement the current testwork packages.

"It brings new process control features that will optimise testwork initiatives and enhance functionality to enable metallurgists to interact with the system in a far better and more user-friendly manner, which will ultimately allow for more accurate experimental data to be collected,” said ABB South Africa Process Industries local division head John Manuell.

“We are committed to providing innovative best-in-class technology solutions to the Technical Solutions team members to support their centre’s digital transformation. This flagship automation platform from ABB will provide a base for many future digital initiatives, such as advanced data analytics, key performance indicators visualisation and reporting, and enterprise connectivity,” he highlighted.

ABB Ability System 800xA is also a seamlessly integrated power and process control system, a safety system and a collaboration enabler with the capacity to improve engineering efficiency, operator performance and asset utilisation, the company concluded.